Guns In the 60-Vote Senate

So the Manchin-Toomey proposal, which the NRA might have praised as its own handiwork not that long ago, is no longer wafting towards easy passage in the Senate on the fresh breeze of bipartisanship. With votes on nine amendments to the “shell” legislative vehicle provided by Harry Reid scheduled for this afternoon, a motion to overcome a filibuster to vote on Manchin-Toomey has 52 publicly announced supporters. One more, Frank Lautenberg, is a potential vote-from-a-stretcher possibility. Beyond that, though, Manchin-Toomey would have to secure all seven undecided senators (Ayotte, Baucus, Begich, Heitkamp, Landrieu, McCain, Pryor), which is more than a bit of a reach (you think Begich, Landrieu and Pryor are going to do anything that will let them be described in 2014 ads as the “deciding vote” on “gun control?” Uh-uh). Meanwhile, a Republican amendment to expand gun rights by requiring states to recognize the terms for other states’ concealed-carry laws (basically privileging citizens of states with looser gun regulations and encouraging others to relax their own) may have a better chance of passage than Manchin-Toomey.

Ask a group of progressives how we got to this point, and one will talk about the unholy power of the NRA, another will complain about Obama’s alleged lack of “leadership,” and a third will find some way to blame the media. But look at the numbers, folks: if not for the insane, completely novel 60-vote requirement in the Senate, Manchin-Toomey would indeed be on the brink of certain passage, or more likely, the Senate would be seriously considering much tougher measures.

It becomes plainer every day that serious filibuster reform is the precondition to enactment of virtually any progressive legislation on virtually any subject. I don’t want to become like Cato the Elder and haunt every discussion with the words “Filibuster Delenda Est” (or however you would render “filibuster” in Latin), but it’s tempting.

UPDATE: Manchin is now telling reporters his and Toomey’s amendment will fail.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.